Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 13th, 2012

Some tasty bop: The Hampton Hawes Trio with Hamp’s Blues

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Recorded in 1955, but stayed way too modern for my tastes into the ’70s. But now I like it a lot. Hampton Hawes was a redoubtable figure in the bop world of the ’50s.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Jazz

Maybe secessionists might want to reconsider…

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Interesting post at Hullaballoo by David Atkins:

The drearily predictable calls for secession in the wake of the re-election of the first African-American president have already begun:

In the aftermath of last week’s presidential election, residents in at least nineteen states have put up petitions on the government’s “We the People” petitioning website seeking the right to secede from the rest of the country.

While the petitions themselves may not be significant, the reaction could be.

Petitions for secession filed from Louisiana and Texas have already received well over 10,000 signatures. Per the website’s own rules, petitions that garner 25,000 signatures or more within 30 days require a response from the Obama administration.

Here’s the thing about that:

Red states, by and large, are moochers. They can’t sustain themselves. If California were to secede, the state would have a balanced budget (or nearly balanced.) If Alabama were to secede, it wouldn’t be able to pay for its stop signs.

Now, the standard and safe response to calls for secession from the Right is to toe the President’s line that we are one people and one nation, not two Americas but a United States of America. That’s a great line. But it’s not really true. It’s not true culturally or even geographically. The same free-state vs slave-state divide that has existed since the founding of this nation is still more or less with us today, in almost the same geographic locations.

This isn’t to say that secession is justified or remotely desirable. It isn’t. A lot of good people would be badly hurt in red states by a Red State secession. We can’t and shouldn’t leave them behind.

But at a certain point, as long as these dependent Republican fools are declaring themselves John Galt producers, fantasizing themselves “makers” in a country of takers, it may be important for progressives to simply call their bluff and dare them to secede. They won’t do it, and we wouldn’t allow it when all is said and done.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Government

A core contradiction of social conservatives

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It is so strange to me that conservatives believe so strongly that our religious beliefs and our sex lives should be dictated and controlled by the government. That seems so… well, unconservative. If I have any conservative readers (which I doubt), I would really appreciate an explanation.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 12:17 pm

The guy who thought the NYPD could be reformed

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Interesting obit of David Durk, who with Frank Serpico triggered an investigation of endemic and widespread corruption in the NYPD in the ’60s and ’70s. However, as the obituary makes clear, the reform efforts barely scratched the surface and today we still see a militaristic police department that’s out of control. Lack of transparency and lack of effective oversight prevent any meaningful reform. Wrongdoers walk free, protected by omerta.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

How neuroscience research can inform military counterintelligence tactics

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Interesting article in The Scientist by Jonathan Moreno:

Think of a question or technology of interest to neuroscience and there is an application with military or counterintelligence potential. Brain-machine interfacing can make drones (unmanned vehicles) more efficient; anti-sleep medication could prevent combat errors by men and women at war; calmative aerosols could diffuse a tense hostage situation; and new imaging devices could improve detection of deception, while a boost of certain natural neurohormones could aid in interrogation.

Earlier this year I published an update of my 2006 book Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense, in which I had described the implications of neuroscience for military and counterintelligence technologies. The publication of the new version, Mind Wars: Brain Science and the Military in the 21st Century, was more than justified both by the favorable reception the first edition enjoyed (surprisingly, it is still the only book on the topic), and the subsequent burst of interest in the issues raised in the first book. Both within the neuroscience community and among various governmental and nongovernmental policy organizations, the potential applications of brain research to national security are no longer being ignored.

Among neuroscientists there has been a lively discussion about scientists’ responsibility for the ultimate purposes to which their work is put. Of course, this quandary is not limited to neuroscientists, but spans a wide range of disciplines, highlighted by the recent lab-evolved strains of the H5N1 avian flu virus that were transmissible between ferrets. (See “Deliberating Over Danger,” The Scientist, April 2012.) An analogy to the early atomic physicists immediately comes to mind: the theoretical and experimental work of leading physics researchers led to the development of one of the most destructive weapons mankind has ever known. But unlike the bomb itself, which was developed for an explicit purpose under the pressures of national security, discoveries in neuroscience and other life science fields are plagued by a more challenging philosophical problem: how can we hold an individual scientist morally responsible for the ultimate applications of her or his work when such applications are often difficult to predict?

A classic example is Einstein’s 1905 paper on special relativity, which formed the theoretical basis for the subsequent work on the atomic bomb. Should Einstein therefore be held responsible for the devastation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Although the distinction between “basic” and “applied” science is fuzzy at the edges, drawing such a line in the sand may be necessary in order to  determine direct ethical responsibility for the application of one’s work. (Note: His later regrets notwithstanding, Einstein himself was prepared to support the bomb project for fear that Germany would get there first.)

Some within the neuroscience community have urged that their colleagues simply pledge not to work on projects that could be of interest to the national security establishment. But one practical problem with this proposal is that researchers don’t always know the precise source, let alone the ultimate purpose, of the funds associated with a request for proposals. In the 1950s, for example, the CIA created a front organization called the Society for the Study of Human Ecology that funded research on hallucinogens and other “brainwashing” experiments. Researchers funded by this Society never knew the CIA was behind it.

And then there is the obvious fact that not all neuroscientists will agree that doing work for a national security agency poses ethical problems. Some may consider it an act of patriotism—for example, some scientists may view their work with such agencies as central to the fight against theocratic regimes—or simply of professional self-interest. Finally, if neuroscientists worried about the unpredictable uses their work might be put to, what it might mean in practice is refusing to accept funding from certain government agencies altogether.

All this might seem like a lot of rationalization were it not for the fact that I am a philosopher and historian, not a neuroscientist, so in that sense I have no dog in this hunt. However, there is one related effort that I can see no reasonable objection to neuroscientists’ vigorous involvement in: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 11:38 am

David Brooks, rightly taken to task

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When I read Brooks’s column yesterday in the NY Times, I thought the opening had a special irony:

During his first term, President Obama faced a wicked problem: How do you govern in a highly polarized, evenly divided country with House Republicans who seem unwilling to compromise? Obama never really solved that one, and he was forced to pass his agenda on partisan lines (during the first two years) or not pass it at all (the final two).

Now re-elected with Republicans still in control of the House, Obama faces the problem again. You might say the success of his second term rests upon him solving it.

Some on the left are suggesting that he adopt a strategy of confrontation and conquest. The president should use the advantages of victory to crush the spirit of the Republican House majority, they say. Reject the Grand Bargain approach. Instead, take the country over the so-called fiscal cliff. Blame it on the Republicans who are unwilling to even raise taxes on the rich. Wait until they fold, and then you will have your way.

The first thing to say about this strategy is that it is irresponsible. . .

There are few columnists so irresponsible as David Brooks, and note that he places the mantle of “irresponsibility” fully on the shoulders of President Obama, totally ignoring the absolutely massive irresponsibility we’ve seen from the GOP since Obama was elected.

And Brooks doesn’t even get that right. Dean Baker writes:

It’s so cute to see all the serious people who are so worried about economic crises that do not exist. They are constantly telling us how the “job creators” (a.k.a. rich people) who run businesses are just so nervous and uncertain they don’t know what to do. The current concern is that taxes could rise at the end of the year and government spending will fall.

Of course this would be bad news, but would it be a crisis? As many people have pointed out, this is called “deficit reduction,” which is exactly what most of the people now complaining about an imminent crisis have been advocating. The tax increases and spending cuts would weaken the economy and, if left in place over the course of the year, would sharply slow growth and likely push the economy into a recession.

But none of this happens in January. In fact, almost nothing happens in January except the Bush tax cuts expire, substantially improving President Obama’s bargaining position. This is bad news for Republicans, but so what?

Hence we have David Brooks telling us this morning:

“The first thing to say about this strategy [letting the tax cuts expire] is that it is irresponsible. The recovery is fragile. Europe may crater. China is ill. Business is pulling back at the mere anticipation of a fiscal cliff. It’s reckless to think you can manufacture an economic crisis for political leverage and then control the cascading results.”

Is there any evidence for this assertion whatsoever? “Europe may crater.” What on earth does Brooks mean by this? People will not want to hold euros because the U.S. economy might be slowing slightly (we’re talking January, not the whole year)?

Look, this is utter nonsense. Brooks is pushing hard to protect the bargaining position of his Republican friends. He is obviously willing to say anything to advance the cause including inventing crises that do not exist.

It makes for entertaining reading. After all, here is a guy who was completely oblivious to the largest economic crisis in 80 years until it sank the economy who is now seeing crises in every closet. It is about as serious as those predictions of Romney landslide that we heard last week.

Addendum:

I almost forgot to ridicule Brooks for one of the main points in his piece. He tells readers: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 11:32 am

Posted in GOP, NY Times

Occupy Wall Street Offshoot Wants to Buy Up Consumer Debt and Cancel It

with 2 comments

Very interesting idea pointed out to me by The Eldest—and it sounds like a very good idea, as well. Robert O’Brien writes in The Baltimore Fishbowl:

Occupy Wall Street activists have hit upon a novel way to provide people with debt relief: buy it up and cancel it. The initiative, called the Rolling Jubilee, buys distressed debt from banks for pennies on the dollar, and then, instead of trying to collect on it, abolishes it.

The initial funding goal of $50,000 — which the Rolling Jubilee would use to cancel $1 million of debt — has already been met twice over. (Visit the website to watch the donations, and debt eliminations, climb.)

To answer your question: No, you can not apply to have your debt specifically targeted by Rolling Jubilee. Debt is bought at random in bundles. And if your debt isn’t yet “distressed” then it’s not likely to be on the list.

How much of a dent could this effort really make in the collective debt of the American people? Maybe only a small one. Americans are something like $2.7 trillion in debt, and a trillion is a million millions.

But it’s certainly an inspiring way to offer direct relief to people who are struggling, and perhaps it will get the issue of personal debt back in the news.

You can donate to the Rolling Jubilee here. Check the website on Thursday for a live stream of their launch party, featuring Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel) and Janeane Garofalo among others.

Note that for each $1 you donate, $20 worth of debt is retired.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 10:54 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Viewing Petraeus after the scales fall from our eyes

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A new look at Petraeus’s early military contributions suggests that they were not that new and very much oversold. Hannah Allam and Nancy Youssef report for McClatchy:

Gen. David Petraeus’ affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, has muddied the carefully crafted narrative of America’s most eminent “soldier-scholar statesman,” allowing unprecedented scrutiny of the policies of a man who was so venerated in Washington that one could be labeled unpatriotic simply for challenging his strategies.

The still-unfolding Petraeus scandal offers space for the most critical look to date of the popular general’s resume, including his blueprint for counterinsurgency, the “surge” tactic he applied to Iraq and then Afghanistan, and the recruiting of Iraqi tribesmen in the battle against al Qaida.

Critics raised serious doubts about those and other projects years ago, but, in public at least, their concerns were steamrolled by a propaganda machine that was designed to protect Petraeus’ military legacy – perhaps even for a future presidential bid.

“The country put him on a big, high pedestal, and he took himself off that pedestal with his own actions,” said retired Col. Steve Boylan, Petraeus’ former aide and acting spokesman since the scandal broke. “As he told me, ‘I screwed up.’”

While Boylan and other diehard supporters insist that the general’s military accomplishments endure, more critical voices say that it’s about time his entire record got a closer look. The infallibility of Petraeus, detractors say, was a myth created by his inner circle, nurtured by a sycophantic press corps, swallowed by a fawning government and, ultimately, punctured by his own weakness when it came to an attractive and ambitious devotee.

“I think there’s always a cult of celebrity, a cult of power,” said a Western official who was present at Petraeus’ headquarters in Afghanistan and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

That personality cult made it difficult to criticize Petraeus on the national stage. Petraeus skillfully worked the media early in the Iraq war to shape his public image as a thoughtful, modern military thinker. As a major general in 2003, Petraeus invited Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Atkinson to accompany him throughout the invasion of Iraq. The journalist’s subsequent book about his two months with Petraeus and the 101st Airborne Division left a defining image of the general as someone clearly “entranced by the problem-solving nature of high command.”

Mark Jacobson, a former deputy NATO representative to the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan, said it’s too early to determine the extent of Petraeus’ legacy or how this scandal will affect it. A better barometer, he said, will come when the generation of officers that was shaped by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and, he added, successfully navigated the challenges there – moves into greater positions of authority.

“That’s when you’re going to see the evolution that began after Sept. 11, 2001, completed,” Jacobson said. “That’s a military that’s more agile, more experienced and more adept.”

From Baghdad, Petraeus pushed the 101st north to the restive city of Mosul, where the general was credited with bringing stability through counterinsurgency methods – a type of warfare the conventional army typically shunned. Petraeus became the face of the counterinsurgency renaissance, his ideas heralded as groundbreaking. In fact, they were old strategies that had been rejected by the military in the post-Vietnam period, according to military historians.

Petraeus returned to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the Army’s intellectual hub, and began drafting its counterinsurgency manual, which he envisioned as a vital tool to fill a gap in military thinking. It was published during the worst days of the Iraq war and became a national bestseller, overshadowing the fact that Petraeus had arrived in Kansas after overseeing the training of the new Iraq army in Baghdad – a disastrous venture in which millions of dollars vanished and U.S.-trained forces morphed into sectarian death squads that fueled the ensuing civil war.

To a nation that was desperate for anything resembling success in the abyss of Iraq, however, Petraeus was regarded as a trailblazer for challenging the military to move away from its timeworn tactic of major combat operation. Never mind that the manual was an amalgam of old military thinking and similar to a blueprint written in 1964 and based in part on the French incursion into Algeria.

Petraeus’ application of those ideas to Iraq in February 2007, along with a surge of 25,000 additional American troops, “qualifies neither as particularly new nor even as a strategy,” wrote Army Col. Gian Gentile, a Petraeus critic who teaches American and military history at West Point and who commanded a combat battalion in Baghdad in 2006.

“Better to call it, instead, an enhanced reliance on tactics and operational concepts previously in use,” Gentile wrote in the World Affair Journal in summer 2008. “Or, put less charitably, an over-hyped shift in emphasis that, on the one hand, will not necessarily yield an American victory in Iraq, but on the other might well leave the United States Army crippled in future wars.”

Such harsh criticism barely surfaced in the public arena, however, where a pliant media helped to turn Petraeus into a national figure for embracing the risky “surge” proposal at a time when the Bush White House had lost all credibility in the war, and the military was losing as many as 120 service members a week. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 10:50 am

Posted in Army, Media, Military

The conservative war on American prisons

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This article in The Washington Monthly by David Dagan and Steven Teles is intriguing and a hopeful sign, so long as the conservative penchant for turning government responsibilities over to profit-making enterprises is avoided. In particular, this article (and I urge you to read the whole thing) sheds new light on this post made earlier this morning.

American streets are much safer today than they were thirty years ago, and until recently most conservatives had a simple explanation: more prison beds equal less crime. This argument was a fulcrum of Republican politics for decades, boosting candidates from Richard Nixon to George H. W. Bush and scores more in the states. Once elected, these Republicans (and their Democratic imitators) built prisons on a scale that now exceeds such formidable police states as Russia and Iran, with 3 percent of the American population behind bars or on parole and probation.

Now that crime and the fear of victimization are down, we might expect Republicans to take a victory lap, casting safer streets as a vindication of their hard line. Instead, more and more conservatives are clambering down from the prison ramparts. Take Newt Gingrich, who made a promise of more incarceration an item of his 1994 Contract with America. Seventeen years later, he had changed his tune. “There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential,” Gingrich wrote in 2011. “The criminal-justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it.”

None of Gingrich’s rivals in the vicious Republican presidential primary exploited these statements. If anything, his position is approaching party orthodoxy. The 2012 Republican platform declares, “Prisons should do more than punish; they should attempt to rehabilitate and institute proven prisoner reentry systems to reduce recidivism and future victimization.” What’s more, a rogue’s gallery of conservative crime warriors have joined Gingrich’s call for Americans to rethink their incarceration reflex. They include Ed Meese, Asa Hutchinson, William Bennett—even the now-infamous American Legislative Exchange Council. Most importantly, more than a dozen states have launched serious criminal justice reform efforts in recent years, with conservatives often in the lead.

Skeptics might conclude that conservatives are only rethinking criminal justice because lockups have become too expensive. But whether prison costs too much depends on what you think of incarceration’s benefits. Change is coming to criminal justice because an alliance of evangelicals and libertarians have put those benefits on trial. Discovering that the nation’s prison growth is morally objectionable by their own, conservative standards, they are beginning to attack it—and may succeed where liberals, working the issue on their own, have, so far, failed.

This will do more than simply put the nation on a path to a more rational and humane correctional system. It will also provide an example of how bipartisan policy breakthroughs are still possible in our polarized age. The expert-driven, center-out model of policy change that think-tank moderates and foundation check-writers hold dear is on the brink of extinction. If it is to be replaced by anything, it will be through efforts to persuade strong partisans to rethink the meaning of their ideological commitments, and thus to become open to information they would otherwise ignore. Bipartisan agreement will result from the intersection of separate ideological tracks—not an appeal to cross them. This approach will not work for all issues. But in an environment in which the center has almost completely evaporated, and in which voters seem unwilling to grant either party a decisive political majority, it may be the only way in which our policy gridlock can be broken. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 9:49 am

Posted in Drug laws, GOP, Government, Law

Are men in positions of power simply helpless against women?

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Frank Bruni points out to how the reports of the Petraeus affair with Broadwell are slanted to depict Petraeus as a powerless victim in what happened, with little culpability save for his inability to resist her wiles:

There were remarks galore about her unusually toned arms and the way she dressed to show them off. I even spotted a comment about how much of her armpits one of her outfits revealed, as if underarm exhibitionism were some sort of sexual sorcery, some aphrodisiac, the key to it all.

What else could explain his transgression? Why else would a man of such outward discipline and outsize achievement risk so much? The temptress must have been devious. The temptation must have been epic.

That was the tired tone of some of the initial coverage of, and reaction to, the affair between David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, which had many people claiming surprise where there wasn’t cause for any, reverting to clichés that should be retired and indulging in a sexism we like to think we’ve moved past.

Broadwell has just 13 percent body fat, according to a recent measurement. Did you know that? Did you need to? It came up nonetheless. And like so much else about her — her long-ago coronation as homecoming queen, her six-minute mile — it was presented not merely as a matter of accomplishment, but as something a bit titillating, perhaps a part of the trap she laid.

There are bigger issues here. There are questions of real consequence, such as why the F.B.I. got so thoroughly involved in what has been vaguely described as a case of e-mail harassment, whether the bureau waited too long to tell lawmakers and White House officials about the investigation, and how much classified information Broadwell, by dint of her relationship with Petraeus, was privy to. The answers matter.

Her “expressive green eyes” (The Daily Beast) and “tight shirts” and “form-fitting clothes” (The Washington Post) don’t. And the anecdotes and chatter that implicitly or explicitly wonder at the spidery wiles she must have used to throw the mighty man off his path are laughably ignorant of history, which suggests that mighty men are all too ready to tumble, loins first. Wiles factor less into the equation than proximity.

Sure, the spotlight these men have attracted and the altitude they’ve reached should, theoretically, give them greater pause. But they’ve either become accustomed to or outright sought a kind of adulation in the public arena that probably isn’t mirrored in their marriages. A spouse is unlikely to provide it. A spouse knows you too well for that, and gives you something deeper, truer and so much less electric.

It has to be more than mere coincidence that Bill Clinton had an affair with a White House intern; Newt Gingrich with a Congressional aide (now his wife); John Edwards with a woman who followed him around with a camera, creating hagiographic mini-documentaries about his presidential campaign; and Petraeus with a woman who made him the subject of a biography so worshipful that its main riddle, joked Jon Stewart, was whether Petraeus was “awesome or incredibly awesome.”

These mighty men didn’t just choose mistresses, by all appearances. They chose fonts of gushing reverence. That’s at least as deliberate and damnable as any signals the alleged temptresses put out.

Petraeus’s choice suggests an additional measure of vanity. Broadwell exercises compulsively, as he does. She’s fascinated by all matters military, as he is. “Petraeus once joked I was his avatar,” she told The Charlotte Observer a while back. So by his own assessment, he was having an affair with a version of himself.

And yet it’s the women in these situations who are often subjected to a more vigorous public shaming — and assigned greater responsibility. . .

Continue reading.

The Wife told me of an article she read that pointed out that we don’t see so many reports of women in positions of power (Madeline Albrecht, Hillary Clinton, Sherry Lansing (when she was head of Paramount Studios), et al.) who get into such involvements, with the speculation that women in these positions never develop the feeling of invulnerability that envelopes men in the same situation: women are constantly reminded that they are vulnerable and are more apt to be careful. That seems to me to be a good argument for putting more women in positions of power—president, for example.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 9:43 am

Army failing in its responsibilities

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Besides the failures of leadership noted in the NY Times today, the Army is losing (or failing to create) war records required by veterans to secure benefits. Two reports, first a ProPublica piece by Peter Sleeth:

A strange thing happened when Christopher DeLara filed for disability benefits after his tour in Iraq: The U.S. Army said it had no records showing he had ever been overseas.

DeLara had searing memories of his combat experiences. A friend bled to death before his eyes. He saw an insurgent shoot his commander in the head. And, most hauntingly, he recalled firing at an Iraqi boy who had attacked his convoy.

The Army said it could find no field records documenting any of these incidents.

Over the last decade, millions of military field records from Iraq and Afghanistan have been lost or destroyed, making it difficult for some soldiers to prove their combat experiences and obtain medical benefits or other veteran awards and services. Our reporting found a few reasons behind the problem:

System failure: In a string of critical reports, historians said Army units were losing their own history by failing to keep adequate field records. The U.S. military began relying on computer records during the Gulf War, introducing major gaps in recordkeeping as the old-style paper system fell apart. The Army then introduced a centralized system for collecting electronic field reports, but units have failed to submit records there.

Security concerns: Some military commanders ordered units to purge computer hard drives before redeploying to the United States, destroying any classified field records they contained.

Leadership: Disagreements among military officials have also led to lack of coordination in record-keeping. “The Army would say it’s Centcom’s responsibility… Centcom would say it’s an Army responsibility,” said one Archivist. Recordkeeping took a backseat to wartime demands: “Something just had to fall off the plate, there was so much going on,” a former Centcom records manager said.

» Are you a veteran who can’t obtain your military field records? Tell us your story.

DeLara appealed, fighting for five years before a judge accepted the testimony of an officer in his unit. By then he had divorced, was briefly homeless and had sought solace in drugs and alcohol.

DeLara’s case is part of a much larger problem that has plagued the U.S. military since the 1990 Gulf War: a failure to create and maintain the types of field records that have documented American conflicts since the Revolutionary War.

A joint investigation by ProPublica and The Seattle Times has found that the recordkeeping breakdown was especially acute in the early years of the Iraq war, when insurgents deployed improvised bombs with devastating effects on U.S. soldiers. The military has also lost or destroyed records from Afghanistan, according to officials and previously undisclosed documents.

The loss of field records — after-action write-ups, intelligence reports and other day-to-day accounts from the war zones — has far-reaching implications. It has complicated efforts by soldiers like DeLara to claim benefits. And it makes it harder for military strategists to learn the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the nation’s most protracted wars.

Military officers and historians say field records provide the granular details that, when woven together, tell larger stories hidden from participants in the day-to-day confusion of combat.

The Army says it has taken steps to improve handling of records — including better training and more emphasis from top commanders. But officials familiar with the problem said the missing material may never be retrieved.

“I can’t even start to describe the dimensions of the problem,” said Conrad C. Crane, director of the U.S. Army’s Military History Institute. “I fear we’re never really going to know clearly what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan because we don’t have the records.”

The Army, with its dominant presence in both theaters, has the biggest deficiencies. But the U.S. Central Command in Iraq (Centcom), which had overall authority, also lost records, according to reports and other documents obtained by ProPublica under the Freedom of Information Act.

In Baghdad, Centcom and the Army disagreed about which was responsible for keeping records. There was confusion about whether classified field records could be transported back to the units’ headquarters in the United States. As a result, some units were instructed to erase computer hard drives when they rotated home, destroying the records that had been stored on them. . .

Continue reading.

And then, part two:  A Son Lost in Iraq, but Where Is the Casualty Report?

For more on the story behind the story, read How This Story Came About.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 9:34 am

Posted in Army, Daily life, Military

Sluggish wheels of Texas justice may be starting to turn

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Joe Nocera in the NY Times:

In just about a month from now, Texas will witness a rare event: a former prosecutor is going to be held to account for alleged prosecutorial misconduct.

He is Ken Anderson, who for nearly 17 years was the district attorney in Williamson County, a fast-growing suburb of Austin. (In 2002, Gov. Rick Perry made him a district judge.) As Pamela Colloff writes, in a brilliant two-part series in Texas Monthly, Anderson was the kind of prosecutor who “routinely asked for, and won, harsh sentences and fought to keep offenders in prison long after they became eligible for parole.”

One of Anderson’s most high-profile prosecutions was of a man named Michael Morton. In 1987, Anderson prosecuted him for a heinous crime: His wife, Christine, was bludgeoned to death. Morton was then in his early 30s, with a 3-year-old son and a job at Safeway. He had never been in trouble. Yet the Williamson County sheriff, Jim Boutwell, from whom Anderson took his cues, was convinced that Morton had committed the crime.

Evidence that could be used against him — such as a plaintive note Morton wrote to his wife after she fell asleep when he was hoping to have sex — was highlighted. Evidence that suggested his innocence — most importantly, a blood-stained bandana discovered near Morton’s house — was ignored. Worst of all, Anderson’s office hid from the defense some crucial evidence that would undoubtedly have caused the jury to find Morton not guilty. By the time Morton was sentenced — to life — only his parents and a single co-worker believed he was innocent.

But he was. In October 2011, after 25 years in prison, Morton was set free. Nine years earlier, the Innocence Project, which works on behalf of people who have been wrongly prosecuted, got involved in Morton’s case. After years of legal wrangling, they got hold of the hidden evidence, and a court agreed to allow DNA testing on the bloody bandana. The DNA test not only absolved Morton, but pointed to a man who had subsequently killed another woman.

Colloff’s articles are gripping and powerful, but they’re not as unusual as they ought to be. . .

Continue reading.

Because prosecutors have so much power, those who misuse that power, as Ken Johnson did, deserve the very harshest of punishments. What he did to an innocent man who had already suffered the death of his wife deserves a lengthy prison sentence with no possibility of parole.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 8:26 am

Posted in Government, Law

Kabuki Number Two a success

with 9 comments

Today I tried a different kabuki brush, one that a shaver Josh from CA suggested to me in a comment, but damned if I can find the comment—I’ve just spent half an hour scouring the comments in the blog and comments on Wicked_Edge, where I must have seen it. UPDATE: Found it. UPDATE 2: Josh from CA points to the actual comment that triggered my order. I can tell from the order date—as well as my memory—that this was the triggering comment, though jsummerfield’s post is also on target.

This is the brush and it did a dynamite job with the Floris JF shaving soap—I got a very different sort of lather, but highly satisfactory, and the brush itself is astonishingly soft. This will definitely become a part of my brush collection. The difference between this and yesterday’s brush is that this brush is not so dense and is able to interact more with the soap and provide a resting place for lather.

I think the Tradere Solid Bar (as he calls it) has displaced the ARC Weber as my favorite razor. Of course, the Tradere costs twice what the ARC costs, but OTOH the Tradere always seems to be in stock, unlike the Weber razors. And the Tradere shaves like a dream, today with a Gillette Rubie blade. A wonderful 3-pass shave.

The aftershave shave, shown incognito in the photo, is Floris JF, to match the soap, and I enjoyed a good splash of that. And then as I made breakfast I again got a double-yolked egg. Things are looking up.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2012 at 8:05 am

Posted in Shaving

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